First of all, please tell us a bit about you two.
We are entrepreneurs from West Pomerania (near Kołobrzeg [ger. Kolberg]) and have been operating continuously since 1990. We represent the first generations born after World War II in the lands of West Pomerania. And now, we are also positive ‘historical topics-freaks‘ who feel responsible for our heritage. Because, after all, these buildings, the work put into their reconstruction, and the association’s efforts are our legacy for future generations.
Why do you take an interest in manorial heritage? What was the initial situation, that made you buy one manor and then another?
We became the owners of the palace in Siemczyno by chance and necessity. Our eldest brother (Czesław) bought a quarter of the palace without verifying the mortgage charges. However, to help with its plight, as the palace had a large mortgage, we initiated legal proceedings to do away with the mortgage. During the activities, the other co-owners contacted us with a desire to resell their parts of the palace (at the beginning, there were four). After the legal preparation of the entire operation, we bought a quarter of the palace at a bailiff auction and the remaining two-fourths from private owners (1998/1999). Our eldest brother, Czesław, also decided to sell his part after two years. And thus, in 2001, we became the owners of the whole.
In 2002, we bought large farm buildings that, before World War II, constituted a palace and farm complex. And in 2011, we acquired the park, which historically belonged to the palace. As a result, we consolidated the historical whole by purchasing individual parts.
Then, without any specific purpose, we undertook a renovation. First, the roofs of the farm buildings and then the interiors. It was only at the turn of 2008/2009 that we decided to arrange a hotel in the historic farm buildings. However, when it comes to the palace building, in 2005, the palace was handed over for permanent use to the established Henrykowskie Association in Siemczyno.
Such a procedure aims to enable the possibility of applying for European funds to renovate the palace. And so it happened. The name of the association derives from the former name of the village – Heinrichsdorf, and this comes from the name of the knight – Heinrich, who founded the village. The main goals of the Henrykowski Association in Siemczyno are, among others, the revitalization, modernization, and adaptation for cultural purposes of historic buildings and historical complexes.
In the meantime, we received an attractive offer to purchase a palace and farm complex in Kozia Góra, knowing that the activities undertaken at the monuments are a long-distance run. Bearing in mind clearly defined directions for the implementation of revitalization projects in Siemczyno, which were, are, and will be carried out successively and methodically, we decided that we can afford to take possession and save from the loss of another palace and farm complex, which is Kozia Góra.
"Regarding the activities of the Henrykowskie Association in Siemczyno for the reconstruction of the palace, the following are most important: clearly set goals and their consistent implementation; awareness of the long-term perspective; and patience and persistence. Such a project cannot be implemented in a year or even in five years."
What is the story of the houses, what makes them attractive to you?
Siemczyno was historically situated on the outskirts of Poland, at the meeting point of Brandenburg and Polish cultures. As a result, the story is both interesting and turbulent.
After earlier grants to the Templar Knights at the end of the 13th century, this region became the natural succession of the Knights Hospitaller Order at the beginning of the 15th century. But, while relations with the Templars in these lands were correct, they weren’t with the Knights Hospitaller. Therefore, the Polish King Wladyslaw Jagiello knew that the knights Hospitaller’s Order cooperated with the Teutonic Order and freely let the western knights to Malbork, which, before the famous Battle of Grunwald took place, came to the Teutonic Order for the so-called famous “reisen,” and so plundering expeditions “in God’s name” to Lithuania and Samogitia as pagan countries.
After the Polish-Lithuanian Union, the King of both nations, Wladyslaw Jagiello, decided to corrupt the rule of the Knights Hospitaller and impeded the transition of the western knights to the Teutonic Order. So, after the expulsion of the Knights Hospitaller, he manned the Polish guards at the castle in Drahim and created the Drahim County there. As a result, the rulership of the order was changed to the Polish Kingdom.
Since 1292, this area has been inhabited by the Golc family, an eminent family with a privilege from the King of Poland for merits for the kingdom, implying that its political importance in the region was great. For over 20 years, at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, the Golc family were the Drahim starosts.
This region has been the subject of frequent border disputes with Brandenburg. Among others, in the middle of the 16th century, the Brandenburgers contributed to the attack on Poland by Sweden as a result of their policy of allowing the Swedish troops to pass through Brandenburg Pomerania and allowing their citizens to be recruited into the Swedish army. The first village the Swedes saw after crossing the Polish border was Siemczyno, then Henrykowo (ger. Heinrichsdorf). As a result of this bloodiest of wars for the Republic of Poland, Poland had to agree to an alliance with Brandenburg in order to defeat the Swedes and hand over royal Prussia. (The Welaw-Bydgoszcz Treaties).
The first mentions of the construction of the palace date back to the beginning of the second 16th century, and the present main body was built between 1722 and 1726. Also, the present ground floor and a magnificent roof were rebuilt. In 1793, the Golc family sold the dominions to the von Arnim family, and construction of the guest wing began in 1796 and was completed by the end of the 18th century. On the other hand, the kitchen wing was built at the beginning of the 19th century by the last pre-war owners, the von Bredow family, who became the palace owners in 1907.
During the war, the palace temporarily served as a field hospital for the Soviet army, which resided there until the spring of 1946. Then it remained empty until 1950, being the subject of devastation and theft. After 1950, a primary school was organized there, which operated until 1986. Then, in 1990, it was sold to private owners who did nothing for almost a decade. We initiated the first renovation work in 1999.
Importantly, all these historical facts existed in the literature, but only the activity of our association and friendly history enthusiasts, donors, as well as present-day members of the von Bredow family, former owners of the palace, made it possible to put them together and link them to Siemczyno.
What are your plans for the two houses? Which one worked out so far? Which did not, and why?
The plans for the palace in Siemczyno are a public goal. This plan has already been implemented halfway through. For instance, on renovated parts in the basements and the attics. Also, the Interactive Museum of Baroque and the Museum of Various Crafts were established.
After the next renovations, the Museum of the Swedish Deluge will be located on the first floor, with exhibition rooms for artists from the Pomeranian region on the ground floor.
So far, it has been impossible to raise funds for the renovation of the first floor of the palace in Siemczyno, despite the positive assessment of the application submitted to the Regional Operational Program of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship.
In Kozia Góra, we are starting the development of conservation documentation this year. As a result, we made a roof to protect against further devastation (we stopped further devastation). This will give rise to the possibility of directional renovation and modernization work.
What lessons did you learn during the restoration process?
The positive aspect is rediscovering the history of these places, while the negative is the length of official and administrative activities. The process of caring for such buildings teaches fundamentals such as patience, which is similar to raising children or building family compatibility. A very important element is the normalization of social relations at the level of villages and regions. Let us note that the activities of our association set an example for the local community that it is worth acting together for a purpose. This builds up a civil society. Many historical, cultural, and artistic associations with which we cooperate have started to operate in our immediate vicinity.
Regarding the activities of the Henrykowskie Association in Siemczyno for the reconstruction of the palace, the following are most important: clearly set goals and their consistent implementation; awareness of the long-term perspective; and patience and persistence. Such a project cannot be implemented in a year or even in five years.
What is the story about the Baroque museum?
The Baroque palace is the reason for the Baroque Interactive Museum. Analyzing the palaces from the Baroque period, we found that in these palaces, for obvious reasons, there were tailor’s workshops as the basic rooms of the court, but there was also a dressing room arranged as a separate salon, playrooms as a separate salon, a research office, a historical study, and even a theater. And when the palace had numerous investments, it was also the architect’s office. In turn, what could have happened in individual studios and salons in the Baroque period is a separate and interesting story. Therefore, according to historical analysis and our imagination, we recreated these studios and salons, which creates a unique presentation effect for visitors.
The Universalium of Various Crafts – it is a reference to the tradition of the Pomeranian village and the collection of artifacts from the group of old professions that, up until the end of the 20th century, were quite common in village landscapes, such as carpentry, boatbuilding, blacksmithing, net-making, weaving, pottery, etc. This collection, arranged chronologically, creates coherent exhibitions that testify to the hard work performed by the craftsmen of the time.
What is one of the most exciting founds of Kozia Góra?
It was an amazing surprise for us that until 1833, a Masonic lodge was located in Kozia Góra, and for its needs, it functioned at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century. A three-storey tower was added to the palace, decorated with towers and neo-Gothic flanks.
Editorial amendment: Freemasonry (or Masonry, for short) is one of the world’s most historic membership organizations. It was found approximately 300 years ago and still is a worldwide fraternity of like-minded people.
What is your intention for tourists to experience at your places?
First of all, uniqueness. A unique encounter with history that is remembered and inspires the expansion of local and international history knowledge in these areas. And at the same time, building identity and respect for heritage.
What plans do you still have for your manors?
A public goal requires internal support. Because somewhere, you can see museums, community centers, and self-financing theaters. Therefore, it is necessary to look for opportunities for the commercial development of the remaining objects, which, in this case, constitute the former farm. Also, synergistic action gives additional opportunities both for the palace building intended for public purposes and for commercial buildings.
How do you perceive the development of the river basin region in terms of tourism in manors? Is it thriving or do you wish for many more activities?
There is still a lot to do in the context of tourism in our region. However, we are pleased to note that our region is becoming increasingly popular with tourists from Poland and abroad. This is important because, for many years, places such as Kozia Góra or Siemczyno were only “on the way” for tourists, who chose mainly coastal towns as their destination. As an association, we pay a lot of attention to promoting our region in newspapers, on the Internet, and on social media. But we are also lobbying for wider promotion with local and state authorities. And our activities are also echoed abroad, an example of which is today’s interview.
When it comes to young people, the younger generation runs away shortly after graduating from primary school in the rural environment. However, there are indications that young people are at least considering the possibility of building a future in the place where they were born and raised. And our association’s activities demonstrate these possibilities.